[Dave Birch] I was pottering off to Canada and thought that perhaps I ought to pick up some Canadian dollars. After all, I figured, it’s an advanced nation so I can probably pay by card everywhere, but just in case I’d better get a couple of hundred dollars. I went to Travelex at Heathrow, and the clerk pointed me toward a new product: they had an EMV prepaid MasterCard denominated in Canadian dollars. Hurrah! As a rule, I much prefer to carry prepaid cards rather than cash and I already have a prepaid US dollar Visa, a prepaid UK pound Visa and a prepaid Euro MasterCard. So I got myself one of these new-fangled Canadian dollar cash passports.

When I got to Toronto, the first two places I tried it, it didn’t work. The luggage cart at the airport wouldn’t even recognise it, and the taxi driver wouldn’t accept it because it didn’t have embossing. He had one of those zip-zap machines that you sometimes still see in the third world (it turned out, ironically, that I’d been travelling to a meeting about the future of payments in a moving payments museum). Then it didn’t work at the restaurant, chip or stripe. It did work in the hotel bar, by stripe, and it also worked on Canadian railways, by chip. It worked at the lunch place, but it didn’t work to buy a bus ticket. Whatever happened to the brand promise of universal acceptance?

On balance, I give the Travelex Canadian Dollar MasterCard… 4/10 (must try harder).

Remember, I do this so you don’t have to.

Mind you, it was Canadian currency that actually caused me more inconvenience than my Canadian $ prepaid card. At the airport, I wanted to buy a few bits and pieces so I went into the store near the gate. There was a line of about five or six people front of me. I got in line. Two women were at the front of the queue (I think they were French, or French Canadian) and they were buying some bags of candy and a couple of bottles of maple syrup. One of the women tried to pay with a Canadian $100 bill, which was met with the same reception as a Confederate $100 bill. She hadn’t read the sign.

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The women then got out some smaller bills, that weren’t quite enough, and so they emptied their change purses and began counting up the shrapnel. The guy in front of me, who was only buying a bottle of water, gave up and left. After another couple of minutes, I followed him. No contactless, no cards, no sale.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

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